California Golden Bears @ UCLA Bruins Analysis
Last night, the California Golden Bears (9-8, 2-3) came to town to play the UCLA Bruins (11-6, 3-2). Before the game, there was some speculation as to whether or not sophomore forward Tyler Honeycutt was going to suit up. Once I arrived in the gym and saw him shooting around with everyone, I was relieved to find out that he was indeed going to be playing.
When UCLA attacked Cal's 2-3 zone, they got open shots, but UCLA seemed content with just aimlessly passing around the perimeter looking for an open shot. They built their large lead on the fast break off of turnovers, penetrating the zone and kicking it to open shooters, and feeding Reeves Nelson along with Josh Smith down low.
Smith had four points and five rebounds in only six minutes of action. The freshman center was dominated the paint offensively, as four of his five rebounds were on the offensive end of things. He went down early on, though, while attempting to take a charge and sustained a possible concussion when his head hit the floor. He is doubtful for Saturday's game against Stanford.
Tyler Honeycutt seemed happy to shoot 3-point shots all night long, and six of his nine attempts from the field were from distance (he connected on four). Honeycutt also grabbed five rebounds and dished out three assists, however, he continues to turn the ball over too often with three turnovers last night.
Reeves Nelson, once again, played with fire and passion and posted a double-double with a career-high 24 points to go along with 10 rebounds. His sensational tip-in with 2.2 seconds left gave the Bruins a two point lead and was the deciding factor.
What was disappointing with the Bruins last night was how they closed the game out, or rather, how they nearly gave the game away. With a little over three minutes left, UCLA was up by eight points and had the ball when I turned to my friend and said, "As long as we execute, there's no reason this isn't a big enough lead." Sure enough, we didn't execute. Malcolm Lee fouled out, leaving the Bruins without their best defender, who had been guarding Cal's best scorer. We turned the ball over on a 5 second call that was more like a 3.7 second call (the coaches timed it after the game on tape), Honeycutt made a careless pass that resulted in more points for Cal.
I still think UCLA's x-factor is Lazeric Jones. When he can score 12 or more points and control the offense, it puts the Bruins in a much better position to win. Last night he scored 24 points, and when he decided to drive, his penetration created a good amount quality looks.
Though Stanford played horrendously against the Trojans last night and have been shooting poorly all year, I expect a close game against the Cardinals. Whether we play down to our opponents, or they always bring it against us, there is never an easy game for a UCLA team.
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